Temper tantrums are common among toddlers and a source of frustration for parents. Some kids whine and scream, while others hit, kick, throw objects or hold their breath. Kids throw tantrums for a variety of reasons. Your response should depend on the circumstances.
Why Children Throw Temper Tantrums
Kids usually throw tantrums because they’re frustrated that they’re not allowed to have or do something, are physically unable to do something they want to do, or are tired, hungry or bored. When toddlers are unable to express feelings, needs or wishes because of limited vocabulary, they become frustrated.
Insufficient or inconsistent sleep causes many temper tantrums. In some cases, tantrums may be associated with illness, vision or hearing problems, or learning disabilities.
How to Prevent Tantrums
Praising your child for good behavior will make him or her less likely to act out. Since toddlers often throw tantrums because they feel they lack control, allowing your child to make choices about simple things, such as which toy to play with or which type of fruit to have as a snack, may reduce outbursts. You can also teach your child new things or enroll him or her in classes. Socialization, feelings of accomplishment, and praise can reduce the frequency of tantrums.
If you know that your child often wants to use or play with something that isn’t safe or could easily be broken, keep it out of sight. If your child wants something when you’re in a public place, distract him or her by talking about something else.
How to Respond to a Temper Tantrum
If your child throws a tantrum, stay calm. Getting upset yourself will only escalate the situation. If your child is simply trying to get attention, ignore the tantrum. If your child is tired or hungry, provide a snack or an opportunity for a nap. If you’re in a public place, take your child to a quiet place to calm down, or leave. If your child’s behavior is putting anyone in harm’s way, remove any dangerous objects, take your child to a safe place, or, if necessary, hold your child firmly until he or she calms down so no one gets hurt.
Praise your child for calming down, and give him or her a hug. Encourage your child to talk about what led to the tantrum and to express feelings in words. Work on expanding your child’s vocabulary to improve communication and prevent more tantrums.
Whatever you do, don’t give in. That’ll only teach your child that throwing a tantrum is an effective way to get what he or she wants, and the behavior will continue.
Know When to Ask for Help
Tantrums are unpleasant for parents and other family members, but they are very common. In most cases, kids outgrow them. Do your best to prevent tantrums and keep your cool if they occur. If you’ve tried the strategies above to handle your child’s tantrums but they persist, talk to your pediatrician.